Postdoctoral Fellowship Announcement


A Program for Postdoctoral Support Combining Ecological, Carbon Cycle, Water Cycle, and Climate Sciences

A new two-year postdoctoral training fellowship will commence in 2010, in partnership between the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Ecological Observing Network (NEON). Developing a fuller understanding of the interactions of climate change with terrestrial ecosystems and the carbon and water cycles is a grand challenge in environmental and Earth system science. Such interactions will be an important factor in determining the evolution of ecosystems and the services they provide to human societies, the rate and magnitude of climate change, and the severity of climate change impacts during the next century. The complexity of such interactions, and their importance for environmental quality and human health and well-being, argues for a multidisciplinary approach and setting for training the next generation of climate and ecological scientists. To this end, a postdoctoral program in which fellows are trained and conduct research in ecology, water and carbon cycle science, modeling, observations, and atmospheric science is being implemented.

Fellows will acquire specific training in atmospheric and climate research following NCAR's established postdoctoral training program, as well as training in ecosystem modeling and observations at NEON. The goal is to increase the number of scientists with the appropriate experience and training to conduct research in this newly emerging field. Fellows will spend approximately equal time at NEON and NCAR.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is a research institution located in Boulder, Colorado, operated by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) under sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The National Ecological Observatory Network is a large scale ecological observing project headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, operated by the non-profit NEON, Inc., under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation. The United States Geological Survey (USGS), the lead Federal agency for providing integrated information on ecosystem carbon sequestration for decision support and ecosystem management and the NSF-funded Forecasts Of Resource and Environmental Changes: data Assimilation Science and Technology (FORCAST) Research Coordination Network are working with NCAR and NEON on this effort. This larger scale collaboration provides the context within which the selected post-doctoral fellows will pursue their scientific objectives.

The deadline for applications to the program will be July 1, 2010. Applications will be jointly reviewed by NEON and NCAR. Telephone interviews may be conducted in August 2010. We anticipate fellowship awards will be announced by September, 2010.


The postdoctoral program provides an opportunity for recent doctoral graduates to continue pursuing their research interests in an environment that fosters the development of transdisciplinary projects. The program invites postdoctoral applicants in the fields of ecology, biology, atmospheric sciences, hydrology, climatology, geography, or related fields.

The primary goal of the program is to develop the careers of recent doctoral graduates. The program will encourage independence and creativity while providing an environment in which fellows interact with and receive advice from experienced scientists at NCAR and NEON. The fellows will spend time at NCAR for research and training in weather/climate analysis and modeling and ecosystem modeling, and at NEON for research and training in ecology, ecological observations, and ecosystem modeling. The time spent by the fellow at each institution will be agreed upon by the fellow and project advisors.

Research Opportunities

The postdoctoral fellowships provide opportunities to address the nexus of ecological, carbon cycle, water cycle science, and climate variability and change. The fellows will develop research projects in collaboration with NCAR and NEON scientists. Strong preference will be given to candidates who propose work on one of the priority research areas outlined below; however, applicants with related interests not covered in the priority research areas should contact one of the coordinators listed below to discuss their research proposal.

One of the grand challenges in the Environmental and Earth System sciences is to understand the regulation of terrestrial ecosystem carbon storage. Uncertainty in the response of the coupled carbon-climate system to anthropogenic CO2 is now considered to be one of the largest uncertainties in scenarios of future climate. Countless local flux and process studies have been conducted, but scaling these up to continental scales and reconciling them with atmospheric inverse estimates to obtain an observationally-based understanding of the climate sensitivity of ecosystem carbon storage remains a grand challenge research question of great societal concern.╩ Observations are critically needed to understand the sensitivity of complex systems to multiple stresses, and to provide initial conditions for model forecasts, while models are needed to extrapolate that process understanding in space and time, and make forecasts in time. For example, changing water balance, growing season length and mean temperature can all have either positive or negative effects on carbon storage depending on other aspects of the system and so remain particularly uncertain.

A consortium of organizations is beginning an ambitious effort to couple new and existing observations to a state-of-the-art modeling framework to understand and predict the effects of the changing climate and water cycle on carbon exchange. The partners include:

  • The National Ecological Observatory Network: NEON will collect data across the United States on the impacts of climate change, land use and invasive species on a wide range of ecosystem services, including carbon fluxes and stocks.
  • The National Center for Atmospheric Research: NCAR is a leader in developing models of the climate system, including state-of-the-art models of carbon, water and energy exchange at the land surface.
  • The United States Geological Survey: The USGS is the lead Federal agency for providing integrated information on ecosystem carbon sequestration for decision support and ecosystem management.
  • The NSF-funded Forecasts Of Resource and Environmental Changes: data Assimilation Science and Technology Research Coordination Network. FORCAST is a group of collaborating scientists from universities across the US interesting in developing advanced model-data fusion and forecasting techniques to take advantage of NEON data.

Each fellow is encouraged to pursue research objectives which take maximum advantage of the opportunities available at NCAR, NEON, and the other partners in this collaborative research effort. Fellows have direct access to the NCAR and NEON computers, observing systems, and libraries, and can obtain appropriate access to other research facilities by mutual agreement with the appropriate project or facility. Special needs (e.g., for laboratory facilities) can often be met but should be arranged in advance through the appropriate project mentor or facility.

Fellows are expected to participate in postdoctoral and scientific community activities including seminars, lecture series, and research reviews and in community service activities during their term.

Priority Research Areas

Strong preference will be given to candidates who propose work on one of the priority research areas described below; however, applicants with related interests not covered in the priority research areas will also be considered. Applicants (whether proposing work in the priority research areas or not) are highly encouraged to contact one of the coordinators whose information has been provided to discuss the research plan they intend to propose; coordinators can assist in making contact with other scientific staff at NEON and NCAR.

  1. Broad questions of interest include:
    • How will ecosystem carbon storage respond to trends in temperature and rainfall?
    • How much carbon can sequestration projects in forests and agriculture store and how does this depend on climate?
    • What are optimal strategies for detecting and quantifying the impacts of sequestration projects on atmospheric CO2?
    • How do changes in water balance and carbon balance correspond and do these vary by region?
    • Where are the largest uncertainties in carbon and water balance and what observing strategy can reduce these uncertainties?
    • How can observations be best assimilated into models of processes operating at multiple time scales?
    • What are the best computing techniques for combining carbon and water observations with earth system models?

We are seeking two post-doctoral fellows to join the team based in Boulder. The fellows will develop specific, independent projects within the above framework with consultation with the scientists, mathematicians and software engineers involved with the project.


  1. An applicant must have a PhD, ScD, or equivalent degree granted in an area specified above as of January 2004 or later or must be able to complete such a degree and finish all thesis revisions and defense before starting the appointment. We encourage applications from women and minorities. Successful foreign applications will be contingent on visa and security requirements.

Primary criteria used in the selection of postdoctoral fellows are the applicant's scientific capability and potential, especially as indicated by originality and independence, and the match between the applicant's interests and the research opportunities available at NCAR and NEON.

Stipend and Benefits

Successful applicants will receive stipends on the same scale as other postdoctoral fellows at NCAR. Presently NCAR postdoctoral fellows receive a stipend of $55,000 in the first year, and $57,500 in the second year. These stipends are adjusted annually in October based on surveys of like institutions. All appointees are eligible for life and health insurance. Travel expenses to NCAR will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $1000 for the fellow and his or her family. Reimbursement will include either one-way federal mileage allowance (currently 58.5¢ per mile) or one-way airfare. Fellows living abroad will have round-trip travel for themselves and their families paid up to a maximum of $2500. An allowance of $750 for moving and storing personal belongings is provided. Scientific travel and registration fees that cost up to $2000/year are normally available.

Number and Terms of Appointments

In this initial period two (2) postdoctoral fellowship training positions will be awarded. Appointments are for a maximum of two years. It is anticipated that these fellows will begin their appointments in early 2010.

Program Coordinators

Dr. David Schimel, NEON,
Dr. Michael Keller, NEON
Dr. Gordon Bonan, NCAR
Mr. Peter Backlund, NCAR

Your application consists of 5 components:

1. Statement of Research (Must be a PDF document)
2. Curriculum Vita (Must be a PDF document)
3. Transcripts (Must be a PDF document)
4. Cover Letter (Must be a PDF document)
5. The names and email addresses of four references who will provide a letter of reference.

Statement of Research

Your statement of research provides information about what you propose to research at NCAR and NEON in response to the priority research area descriptions provided above. Your proposed research should enhance and complement the research already being conducted at NCAR and NEON. Applicants are highly encouraged to contact the researcher or a coordinator whose information has been provided. Your statement of research should be a maximum of 3 pages (12pt font, single spaced). The document MUST be a PDF file. For more information about creating a PDF document, please go to:

Curriculum Vita

Your Curriculum Vita must be uploaded to the application program as a PDF document.


Your transcripts must be uploaded to our system as a PDF document. We only need your graduate transcripts, and they can be unofficial. Please get a copy of your transcript and scan it as a PDF document. If you attended an American institution and your transcript contains your social security number, please be sure to block out that number before scanning. If you attended graduate school at an institution that does not have transcripts, please provide a list of your graduate coursework and any grades/marks received.

Cover Letter

Please include a cover letter as a PDF document.

Letters of Reference

As part of the application process, we will need 4 letters of recommendation from your references. Your references will be able to upload their letters of recommendation for you directly into the application program. (The online application program will automatically send an email requesting a letter of reference to the email address that you enter into the system. The email will include an exclusive link that will allow them to upload a document. You will receive notice from the system when each of your references has successfully uploaded a letter on your behalf. At this time the system does NOT identify which reference has uploaded a letter.)


Background Materials

An extensive discussion of NCAR science is featured in the NCAR Annual Scientific Report, which can be found at and in the NCAR Strategic Plan at Additional information on the NCAR scientific program can be found here,

Information about NEON and its science objectives can be found at

Other NCAR/UCAR Postdoc Opportunities:

Mesa Lab

Mesa Lab

1850 Table Mesa Dr
Boulder, CO 80305
(303) 497-1000